Growing up with a father who’s been a highly respected member of the Rochester NY-area hockey community for more than 40 years, Chris Collins has led a hockey life.
Skating from the age of three on his family’s backyard rink, Chris played local minor hockey before moving to Toronto to play in the GTHL at the age of 13. While playing his freshman and sophomore years in his hometown at Fairport High school, he began his junior hockey career with the Rochester Junior B Americans. He then played a year at Taft School in Connecticut before playing a season in the USHL with the Des Moines Buccaneers, where he put up 65 points—26 goals and 39 assists—in 60 regular-season games, and finished as the league’s top-scoring rookie.
In four seasons at Boston College, he accumulated 63 goals and 59 assists in 162 games, and, in his senior year, led the nation in scoring and finished as the runner up for the Hobey Baker Award.
After playing in the AHL, German and Finnish pro leagues, he returned to North America to begin a new phase, working alongside his father Glenn, brother Greg—former captain at University of New Hampshire and European professional, and sister Kelly—the first woman to play men’s varsity hockey at Fairport High School and the all-time leading scorer in women’s hockey at SUNY Oswego. Their innovative development program, ESG Evolution Sports Group, is dedicated to fostering a love of hockey while it teaches skills and proficiency, and simultaneously helps to develop well-rounded athletes and people.
Also a head coach with the Rochester Grizzlies Youth Hockey program, Chris is an early adopter of PowerPlayer.
Given your extensive hockey background, you’ve no doubt experienced a lot of coaching styles. What’s your approach? We work with kids from learn-to-skate—as young as two years old—up to college age. We want to create an environment where kids fall in love with the game and want to get better, so that means it has to be fun! Come by our rink on any given day and you’ll see hula hoops, soccer balls, toys, and rope swings. You’ll see kids doing things on and off the ice that may seem a little out there, but that are designed to help them with specific aspects of skating and hockey. I know from experience that if you don’t fall in love with the game as a kid, when the game gets hard you won’t want to keep going.
How does that play out in the way you teach kids? We always want to be innovative. For example, I played for a few years in Europe and learned a lot about skating instruction techniques over there—things like jumping over objects and landing on your outside edges. As kids, my brother and sister and I played unstructured street hockey or floor hockey, and that’s how we developed not only hockey skills but interpersonal skills. So we have a three-quarter size rink where we let kids play small-area games that recreate that experience. And you know what, they work hard because they want to! Make it fun and kids will compete against each other. And they improve without even thinking about it.
What first attracted you to PowerPlayer? As coaches and trainers we’re always looking to track player development and see progression, not only skill development on the ice but also development as people off the ice. PowerPlayer’s ability to track character development as well as metrics for skill tests was a home run for Greg and me. There are thousands of great hockey players in the game today, so it’s the character players have and the type of people they are off the ice that will separate them and take them to the next level. PowerPlayer allows us to track and develop exactly that.
How does PowerPlayer fit into your program and philosophy? For coaches, players and parents, PowerPlayer is the perfect solution. Of course parents want feedback about how their kids are doing, but for a lot of coaches that’s problematic. Some just don’t feel comfortable talking to parents, some are worried about possible disagreements. And meetings are time-consuming. PowerPlayer allows coaches to collect and communicate not only tangible metrics but also provide opinions that can help players and parents understand what they’re seeing in a player. Over time it can show kids and parents the things that kids need to work on and how they’re improving. The system can track a player’s progression in so many areas, skating and stick skills for sure, but also coachability and their overall understanding of the game. It really bridges the gap between parents and coaches.
What other advantages do you think PowerPlayer might provide for your organization? We’re big believers in sharing ideas. We work closely with development programs in Boston and Newfoundland, and PowerPlayer will allow us all to compare kids in one place against kids in the other places. We’ll use PowerPlayer data to measure the results of specific training techniques—skating or puck skills for example—then make informed decisions about which are most effective.
We also work hard to help kids achieve their hockey and education goals. We want to help young people create characteristics that matter, to be well rounded. For them to have a PowerPlayer account that shows their hockey progress and capabilities—and their character—over time will be huge. Every player in our system will have an account, so when they want to go on to prep school, junior or college hockey, they’ll have that record, that hockey report card, that they can share with coaches and recruiters.
Does having data to support your player assessments help? Absolutely. As coaches, we can provide opinions or assessments of kids, but if they’re backed up by long-term metrics that illustrate what we’re talking about, that’s very helpful to diffuse or eliminate those potentially awkward parent meetings. And imagine being able to show a PeeWee kid who’s maybe an average skater that another kid who’s now playing junior or college had the same skating score as them at their age. There’s a huge opportunity for encouragement there.
You’re early in the game in terms of PowerPlayer use. How much of the system have you used? We’ve completed off-ice shooting and stickhandling tests, on-ice skating and puck skills sessions, collected some baseline fitness metrics, and have started inputting game play and practice ratings. We plan to continue to add data every week throughout the season. All of our coaches are on board, and our approach is the more input the better.
What’s your personal approach to technology? Haha! I’d say I’m reasonably tech savvy! I love social media, and I’m always eager to learn and improve. In my opinion, the game is changing and technology will just become a bigger and bigger part of it. For example, innovations in training techniques have to keep pace with things like innovations in stick technology. The new sticks make it possible—and maybe necessary—for players to shoot off their front foot. That’s a 180 from the old days. So new thinking is necessary. PowerPlayer is part of that.
How have you positioned PowerPlayer to your players? They know they’re being measured and it shows. For example, every day at our place the kids do an off-ice skill workout related to skating, stick work or shooting. We’re going to be tracking that stuff through PowerPlayer and that lets them know that it all matters. They love it. They love competing to jack up their numbers and to beat their buddies. That’s good for everyone.
What’s the most exciting thing about PowerPlayer? I just love the fact that PowerPlayer will allow us to compare kids from different areas of the world. It’s almost like the kids are training together. PowerPlayer feels like a connecting force. That’s good for the kids, good for the parents, good for the coaches, and good for the game.
In case you haven’t noticed, we love feedback. So we asked a whole bunch of hockey parents — our users (parents of hockey players whose coaches use PowerPlayer) and non-users (hockey parents in general) — for their thoughts about feedback, as it pertains to them and their young athletes.Read Post
I recently posted an article to a Facebook group in which the author explores the highly divisive topic of ice time, arguing both for and against the idea that ‘shortening the bench’ is a net positive for young hockey players. As you might have guessed, the post generated a lot of comments.Read Post
In youth hockey, where development is (or should be) the focus, wins and losses only tell part of the story.Read Post
We’re excited about our numbers to date, because we know we can build on them. After all, that’s what long-term development is all about.Read Post
I want to do everything I can to get the kids I work with to the next level — whatever that means to them individually — and to give them every advantage possible.Read Post
If you’re coaching youth team sports, you’re coaching other people’s kids — which means you’re coaching parents too. In any successful relationship, communication is essential. The challenge in coaching, of course, is time.Read Post
As a player, I would have loved to get this kind of feedback. I always wanted to be first, to be the best. But how could I know what my coach was thinking about me? Not every player is ready to ask their coach questions — some people are just shy — and I’m talking about players from minor hockey all the way to pro.Read Post
I flipped on the NHL Network the other day. While I usually don’t pay too much attention to the panel discussion stuff they broadcast ahead of games, this time something got my attention.
Apparently Jamie Benn was in a bit of a slump.Read Post
I love the drills and metrics for sure, and so do the kids, but seriously, the most useful thing for me personally is the ability to coach from home.Read Post
Ever notice how people just seem to operate at higher levels when they perceive the thing they’re doing to be ‘fun’? That applies to sports, study, and whatever it is most of us do at our day jobs.Read Post
Kids who are positively reinforced by the people who surround them tend to be more confident, happy, and energetic, and are much more likely to succeed than those who may have similar skill sets, but who are less emotionally secure.Read Post
Anticipation is building as a new hockey season approaches. Maybe it’s the comfort of old gloves holding the promise of a new stick that does it? Maybe it’s the idea that a new season offers an opportunity to build on time-tested knowledge by applying new thinking? At PowerPlayer, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to build on what we learned in 2017-18 — our first full season offering a digital feedback platform for youth hockey.Read Post
“You can’t do player development without coach development. And that’s why it’s so important that you’re all here.” Dave Starman / NCAA Scout, Montreal Canadiens.Read Post
For the organizations and coaches who are adopting our platform, positivity isn’t some new age ‘everyone gets a trophy because kids want to be coddled’ concept. It’s a teaching and coaching technique rooted in science.Read Post
Strong personal intangibles and team chemistry have a multiplier effect on talent. Poor personal intangibles and team chemistry have a diminishing effect.Read Post
Because positivity is contagious, it generates a galvanizing force that supercharges skill sets and work ethics. That force is called confidence.Read Post
When we share feedback through PowerPlayer we know we’re sharing the beginning of a conversation that might never take place otherwise. How cool is that?Read Post
For young athletes—and by ‘young’ I mean anyone who is not an adult—the answer to ‘Which wolf wins?’ could easily be ‘The one their coach feeds.’Read Post
Today more than ever, one of the biggest decisions a coach can make is how they choose to communicate with their players.Read Post
For millions of kids, parents and coaches, the season is winding down. And all over the hockey world, the thought of a standard one-on-one, end of season coach/player/parent meeting is a stress-inducing prospect for many on both sides of the table.Read Post
I think we need parents to be part of the teams we’re coaching. If parents understand what I’m seeing in their child and can help me motivate them or address something that needs to be addressed, that’s hugely beneficial to their child, to me, and to the team.Read Post
Consisting of three parts, the formula involves providing feedback to young athletes at every stage of the development process as a way to help build their confidence.Read Post
“When you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad. But you’ve still got to throw the ball.”Read Post
“We’re seeing huge improvements in our kids now and we’re excited to roll PowerPlayer out to more and more of our players in a big way in 2018.”Read Post
“PowerPlayer really helps bring clarity to coaching, and I’m a big believer in communicating with players.”Read Post
“We wouldn’t accept a teacher telling us that our child had failed a grade at the end of the year without any warning or aid in helping them succeed, so why would we allow our players to go through a season without continuous feedback?”Read Post
We’ve shared PowerPlayer with countless coaches, hockey directors, and parents, and we’re working with organizations from Anchorage to Philadelphia, from Syracuse to Sweden. No one has told us they think providing meaningful feedback to kids and their parents is a bad idea.Read Post
“The coach-player-parent dynamic is critical. Always tell players what you see and what to work on, because feedback is critical.” Ray Ferraro / Coaches Site Conference 2017Read Post
Team success largely depends on mutual respect, common purpose and uncommon selflessness. In other words, team success depends on intangibles.Read Post
Before your accountant became a professional accountant, before your dentist became a professional dentist, and before the leading scorer in the NHL became a professional hockey player, they were kids.Read Post
Anyone who’s ever been part of a team—either as a player or as a coach—where things have just clicked, or conversely, have never clicked at all no matter what you did, has been subject to the power of group dynamics.Read Post
For many hockey players, a tryout or showcase camp is essentially a snapshot taken from a long, long movie. It can’t tell enough of the story to be meaningful.Read Post
For coaches, a big part of the challenge is communicating in a meaningful way with kids and parents on a regular basis. We’ve adopted PowerPlayer as an organization because it provides opportunities for coaches to share comments, thoughts, video clips, ratings and real metrics with the players and their parents more frequently.Read Post
Even though I grew up in Buffalo, where winter totally rules, my sport growing up was baseball. Sure I watched the Sabres as a casual fan, but my knowledge of hockey was limited to hating Brett Hull. Google it!Read Post
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, or maybe even if you haven’t, you might be familiar with the 10,000 hour concept, which postulates that it takes that minimum number of hours of ‘deliberate practice’ to become ‘expert’ at something. Like chess, piano, ballet. Or hockey.Read Post
A while back, I connected with a friend who’d spent part of his summer sitting in a hockey rink watching his 10 year-old run through some drills. And he was frustrated. Not because of what was happening on the ice during the camp, but because of what wasn’t happening.Read Post
For millions of kids (and their parents), September means two things: back to school and back to the rink.Read Post
We sat down with coach and skating / skills instructor Stan Kondrotas to get his impressions of PowerPlayer following his first season as a ‘power user.’Read Post
We just spent a couple of weekends at The Coaches Site / TeamSnap 2016 Hockey Coaches Conferences. As sponsors, we were there to introduce PowerPlayer to the coaches in attendance, but we also learned a thing or two about the state of hockey.Read Post
In 2015, a nine-year-old BC kid quit his team with two games left in the season. Seems he’d had enough of sitting on the bench game after game, crying while he watched his teammates play. Why was he denied the opportunity to play?Read Post
Essentially, our current youth hockey measurement system prioritizes games, where effort can produce wins, and virtually ignores practices, where effort can produce winners.Read Post
I grew up with sports. And, oh yeah, of course… school! One of those things was arguably more fun than the other, and the rewards they offered differed, but for any real chance of success, both required not just attention but commitment.Read Post